Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, published June 2008 by Canongate Books.
Read: January 2016
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: The son of a black African father and a white American mother, Obama was only two years old when his father walked out on the family. Many years later, Obama receives a phone call from Nairobi: his father is dead. This sudden news inspires an emotional odyssey for Obama, determined to learn the truth of his father’s life and reconcile his divided inheritance.
Written at the age of thirty-three, Dreams From My Father is an unforgettable read. It illuminates not only Obama’s journey, but also our universal desire to understand our history, and what makes us the people we are.
Yes, I read this in January, and I’m only getting around to reviewing it now. I have no excuse. Though the timing is pretty significant, right? Now that we have THIS as the next American President:
Part of me still feels like I’m in a very strange and twisted
dream nightmare. Moving on…
The first (important?) point to make in this review of a memoir by the current President of the United States is this – I’m not American. Sure, you don’t have to be American to read and appreciate this book, but from a political and a bias point-of-view, it may be important to make that clear. The second point to make – while I don’t usually talk politics on this blog, I am interested and engaged. However, I do not pretend to be a Political Correspondent. I don’t know a whole lot about Obama’s Policies, nor the effectiveness of them. But like most people, that doesn’t stop me having opinions, and lots of them. The third, and final, point to make – I ADORE Obama.
He is a phenomenal public speaker, full of wit, charm and charisma. He has a wonderful sense of humour. He manages to exude a certain humbleness, and appear incredibly genuine, while remaining assertive and firmly in control at all times. He is so intelligent. He is ON POINT in his speeches (are they entirely ghost-written? I really hope not), and occasionally he even bursts into song and dances! I would happily adopt him as Prime Minister in the UK.
As far as politicians go, he’s the epitome of cool (in my opinion).
Sadly, I’m not here to write a blog post solely about my love for Obama, so now I’ve got the introduction out of the way, let’s get on to the book review.
The really interesting thing about this book is that it was written before Obama was even involved in politics, and long before he had aspirations of becoming President. I appreciated this, I felt like there was no hidden agenda, and he could be much more honest with his thoughts and memories – he didn’t have to overtly censor himself for fear of public perception and backlash. This made it feel as though I was genuinely getting an insight into the man, not the politician.
The book begins with Obama’s childhood, his abandonment by his alcoholic and adulterous father, and later his father’s death and the impact that had on him, as well as delving into what it is like to be mixed race being brought up with a white family. As the title suggests, Obama’s father plays a key role in his life, even though he is mostly absent. The tone used is often one of respect and reverence, which I personally struggled to understand, as he is rarely painted in a positive light.
My edition had an updated preface by Obama, where he indicates that ten years after writing the book, he now winces at inelegant phrasing and wishes he could reduce the length by around fifty pages. I wholeheartedly agree. There were sections of the book that would have benefited from a heavier editorial hand, and at times I struggled both with the pacing, and occasionally the lack of engaging content.
This book was originally published in 1995, and I have to confess, I’m confused as to who the intended audience was. How did 1995-Obama get a book deal? Who would have cared about his story back then being the “nobody” he was? While reading this, I was expecting the Obama I am familiar with to shine through these pages, and for me it was very apparent that the book was written by a man who had not yet become the Obama we now know.
I’m really glad I read this book, and learned more about Obama’s origins (I make him sound like a Marvel character). I’m not sure if I will ever reread it, especially because of those long, drawn-out sections, but I would love to pick up more by him. I can never have too much of Obama.
Are you a fan of Obama, or not? Have you read Dreams From My Father, or any other books by him? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!